Herman Bavinck on the Mirror of God’s Holy Law and the Subsequent Need for Grace

Herman Bavinck (1854-1921)


Herman Bavinck,

To correctly assess the benefit of justification, people must lift up their minds to the judgment seat of God and put themselves in his presence. When they compare themselves with others or measure themselves by the standard they apply to themselves or among each other, they have some reason perhaps to pride themselves in something and to put their trust in it. But when they put themselves before the face of God and examine themselves in the mirror of his holy law, all their conceit collapses, all self-confidence melts, and there is room left only for the prayer: “Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you” (Job 4:17-19; 9:2; 15:14-16; Ps. 143:2; cf.130:3), and there only comfort is that “there is forgiveness before you, so that you may be revered” (Ps. 130:4). If for insignificant, guilty, and impure persons there is to be a possibility of true religion, that is, of genuine fellowship with God, of salvation and eternal life, then God on his part must reestablish the broken bond, again take them into fellowship with him and share his grace with them, regardless of their guilt and corruption. He, then, must descend from the height of his majesty, seek us out and come to us, take away our guilt and again open the way to his fatherly heart. If God were to wait until we – by our faith, our virtues, and good works…- had made ourselves worthy, in part or in whole, to receive his favor, the restoration of communion between him and ourselves would never happen, and salvation would forever be out of reach for us.

Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 4: Holy Spirit, Church, and New Creation (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008), 204-205

Used by permission of Baker Academic a division of Baker Publishing Group. All rights to this material are reserved. Material is not to be reproduced, scanned, copied, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without written permission from Baker Publishing Group. http://www.bakerpublishinggroup.com

Advertisements

“Scripture, Tradition, and Rome, Part 2” by John MacArthur

“Scripture, Tradition, and Rome, Part 2”

by John MacArthur

John MacArthur


Modern Roman Catholic Apologetics and Sola Scriptura

As we established yesterday, the official Catholic position on Scripture is that Scripture does not and cannot speak for itself. It must be interpreted by the Church’s teaching authority, and in light of “living tradition.” De facto this says that Scripture has no inherent authority, but like all spiritual truth, it derives its authority from the Church. Only what the Church says is deemed the true Word of God, the “Sacred Scripture . . . written principally in the Church’s heart rather than in documents and records.”

This position obviously emasculates Scripture. That is why the Catholic stance against sola Scriptura has always posed a major problem for Roman Catholic apologists. On one hand faced with the task of defending Catholic doctrine, and on the other hand desiring to affirm what Scripture says about itself, they find themselves on the horns of a dilemma. They cannot affirm the authority of Scripture apart from the caveat that tradition is necessary to explain the Bible’s true meaning. Quite plainly, that makes tradition a superior authority. Moreover, in effect it renders Scripture superfluous, for if Catholic tr adition inerrantly encompasses and explains all the truth of Scripture, then the Bible is simply redundant. Understandably, sola Scriptura has therefore always been a highly effective argument for defenders of the Reformation.

So it is not hard to understand why in recent years Catholic apologists have attacked sola Scriptura with a vengeance. If they can topple this one doctrine, all the Reformers’ other points fall with it. For under the Catholic system, whatever the Church says must be the standard by which to interpret all Scripture. Tradition is the “true” Scripture, written in the heart of the Church. The Church–not Scripture written in “documents and records”–defines the truth about justification by faith, veneration of saints, transubstantiation, and a host of other issues that divided the Reformers from Rome.

To put it another way, if we accept the voice of the Church as infallibly correct, then what Scripture says about these questions is ultimately irrelevant. And in practice this is precisely what happens. To cite but one example, Scripture very plainly says, “There is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5). Nonetheless, the Catholic Church insists that Mary is her Son’s “co-mediatrix.” And in the eyes of millions of Catholics, what the Church says is seen as the final and authoritative Word of God. First Timothy 2:5 is thus nullified by Church tradition.

If Rome can prove her case against sola Scriptura, she overturns all the arguments for the Reformation in one fell swoop. If she can establish her tradition as an infallible authority, no mere biblical argument would have any effect against the dictates of the Church.

Modern Roman Catholic apologists have therefore mounted a carefully focused attack against sola Scriptura.Hoping to turn the Reformation’s greatest strength into an argument against the Reformation, they have begun to argue that it is possible to debunk sola Scriptura by using Scripture alone!This line of argument is now being employed by Catholics against evangelicalism in practically every conceivable forum.

For example, from some articles posted on the Internet:

• The Protestant teaching that the Bible is the sole spiritual authority–sola Scriptura–is nowhere to be found in the Bible. St. Paul wrote to Timothy that Scripture is “useful” (which is an understatement), but neither he nor anyone else in the early Church taught sola scriptura. And, in fact, nobody believed it until the Reformation.

• The Bible nowhere teaches that it is the sole authority in matters of belief. In fact, the Bible teaches that Tradition–the oral teachings given by Jesus to the apostles and their successors, the bishops–is a parallel source of authentic belief. (Quotes from 2 Thess. 2:15 and 1 Cor. 11:2 follow).

From some books written by Catholic Apologists:

• Nowhere does [the Bible] reduce God’s Word down to Scripture alone. Instead, the Bible tells us in many places that God’s authoritative Word is to be found in the church: her tradition (2 Th 2:15; 3:6) as well as her preaching and teaching (1 Pet 1:25; 2 Pet 1:20-21; Mt 18:17). That’s why I think the Bible supports the Catholic principle of sola verbum Dei, “the Word of God alone,” [with “Word of God” encompassing both tradition and Scripture], rather than the Protestant slogan, sola scriptura, “Scripture alone.”

• The Bible actually denies that it is the complete rule of faith. John tells us that not everything concerning Christ’s work is in Scripture (Jn 21:25), and Paul says that much Christian teaching is to be found in the tradition that is handed down by word of mouth (2 Tim. 2:2). He instructs us to “stand fast, and hold the traditions which you have learned, whether by word or by our epistle” (2 Th 2:15). We are told that the first Christians “were persevering in the doctrine of the apostles” (Acts 2:42), which was the oral teaching given long before the New Testament was written–and centuries before the canon of the New Testament was settled.

And from a public debate on the question of sola Scriptura:

• Sola Scriptura itself must be proved from Scripture alone. And if it can’t be done, sola scriptura is a self refuting proposition, and therefore it is false.

• [In] 2 Thessalonians 2:15, Paul commands the Church to stand firm and hold fast in the traditions that they had been given, whether orally, spoken, or through an epistle of theirs. So in other words, tradition is one major category, and there are two subsets in the one category:oral tradition, written tradition. That’s what the Word of God says.

The Sufficiency of Scripture

First, it is necessary to understand what sola Scriptura does and does not assert. The Reformation principle of sola Scriptura has to do with the sufficiency of Scripture as our supreme authority in all spiritual matters. Sola Scriptura simply means that all truth necessary for our salvation and spiritual life is taught either explicitly or implicitly in Scripture.

It is not a claim that all truth of every kind is found in Scripture. The most ardent defender of sola Scriptura will concede, for example, that Scripture has little or nothing to say about DNA structures, microbiology, the rules of Chinese grammar, or rocket science. This or that “scientific truth” for example, may or may not be actually true, whether or not it can be supported by Scripture–but Scripture is a “more sure Word,” standing above all other truth in its authority and certainty. It is “more sure,” according to the apostle Peter, than the data we gather firsthand through our own senses (2 Pet. 1:19). Therefore Scripture is the highest and supreme authority on any matter to which it speaks. But there are many important questions on which Scripture is silent. Sola Scriptura makes no claim to the contrary.

Nor does sola Scriptura claim that everything Jesus or the apostles ever taught is preserved in Scripture. It only means that everything necessary, everything binding on our consciences, and everything God requires of us is given to us in Scripture.

Furthermore, we are forbidden to add to or take way from Scripture (cf. Deut. 4:2; 12:32, cf. Rev. 22:18-19). To do so is to lay on people’s shoulders a burden that God Himself does not intend for them to bear (cf. Matt. 23:4).

Scripture is therefore the perfect and only standard of spiritual truth, revealing infallibly all that we must believe in order to be saved, and all that we must do in order to glorify God. That–no more, no less–is what sola Scriptura means.

The Westminster Confession of Faith defines the sufficiency of Scripture like this:

The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men (1:6).

The Thirty-nine Articles of the Anglican Church include this statement on sola Scriptura:

Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation (article 6).

So sola Scriptura simply means that Scripture is sufficient. The fact that Jesus did and taught many things not recorded in Scripture (Jn. 20:30; 21:25) is wholly irrelevant to the principle of sola Scriptura. The fact that most of the apostles’ actual sermons in the early churches were not written down and preserved for us does not diminish the truth of biblical sufficiency one bit.What is certain is that all that is necessary is in Scripture–and we are forbidden “to exceed what is written” (1 Cor. 4:6).

Scripture clearly claims for itself this sufficiency–and nowhere more clearly than 2 Timothy 3:15-17. A brief summary of that passage is perhaps appropriate here as well. In short, verse 15 affirms that Scripture is sufficient for salvation: “The sacred writings . . . are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” Verse 16 affirms the absolute authority of Scripture, which is “God-breathed” (Gk. theopneustos) and profitable for our instruction. And verse 17 states that Scripture is able to equip the man of God “for every good work.”

So the assertion that the Bible itself does not teach sola Scriptura is simply wrong.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
This article originally appeared here at Grace To You © 1969-2010. Grace to You. All rights reserved.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

“The Word, Necessary Food” by Charles Spurgeon

“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” — Matthew 4:4

Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892)


Charles Spurgeon,

If God so willed it we could live without bread, even as Jesus did for forty days; but we could not live without His Word. By that Word we were created, and by it alone can we be kept in being, for he sustaineth all things by the Word of His power. Bread is a second cause; the Lord Himself is the first source of our sustenance. He can work without the second cause as well as with it; and we must not tie Him down to one mode of operation. Let us not be too eager after the visible, but let us look to the invisible God. We have heard believers say that in deep poverty, when bread ran short, their appetites became short, too; and to others, when common supplies failed, the Lord has sent in unexpected help.

But we must have the Word of the Lord. With this alone we can withstand the devil. Take this from us, and our enemy will have us in his power, for we shall soon faint. Our souls need food, and there is none for them outside of the Word of the Lord. All the books and all the preachers in the world cannot furnish us a single meal: it is only the Word from the mouth of God that can fill the mouth of a believer. Lord, evermore give us this bread. We prize it above royal dainties.

from: Faith’s Check Book, Daily Entry by C. H. Spurgeon for July 4th.

“Twilight of the Idols” by R.C. Sproul


Great article by R.C. Sproul,

The motto of the United States is e pluribus unum. However, since the rise of the ideology of pluralism, the real Unum of that motto has been ripped from its foundation. What drives pluralism is the philosophical antecedent of relativism. All truth is relative; therefore, no one idea or source can be seen as having any kind of supremacy. Built into our law system is the idea of the equal toleration under the law of all religions. It is a short step in people’s thinking from equal toleration under the law to equal validity. The principle that all religions should be treated equally under the law and have equal rights does not carry with it the necessary inference that therefore all religions are valid. Even a cursory, comparative examination of the world’s religions reveals points of radical contradiction among them, and unless one is prepared to affirm the equal truth of contradictories, one must not be able to embrace this fallacious assumption….[read entire article at the Ligonier homepage]

“Substitute Anything for Christ, and the Gospel is Totally Spoiled!” — J.C. Ryle

J.C. Ryle (1816-1900)


J.C. Ryle,

You may spoil the Gospel by substitution. You have only to withdraw from the eyes of the sinner the grand object which the Bible proposes to faith,—Jesus Christ; and to substitute another object in His place,—the Church, the Ministry, the Confessional, Baptism, or the Lord’s Supper, and the mischief is done. Substitute anything for Christ, and the Gospel is totally
spoiled! Do this, either directly or indirectly, and your religion ceases to be Evangelical.

You may spoil the Gospel by addition. You have only to add to Christ, the grand object of faith, some other objects as equally worthy of honour, and the mischief is done. Add anything to Christ, and the Gospel ceases to be a pure Gospel! Do this, either directly or indirectly, and your religion ceases to be Evangelical.

You may spoil the Gospel by interposition. You have only to push something between Christ and the eye of the soul, to draw away the sinner’s attention from the Saviour, and the mischief is done. Interpose anything between man and Christ, and man will neglect Christ for the thing interposed! Do this, either directly or indirectly, and your religion ceases to be Evangelical.

You may spoil the Gospel by disproportion. You have only to attach an exaggerated importance to the secondary things of Christianity, and a diminished importance to the first things, and the mischief is done. Once alter the proportion of the parts of truth, and truth soon becomes downright error! Do this, either directly or indirectly, and your religion ceases to be Evangelical. (from: Evangelical Religion, J.C. Ryle)

“What Doctrines Are Essential? – Part 3” by John MacArthur

“What Doctrines Are Essential? – Part 3”

by John MacArthur

1 Corinthians 3:11; John 3:18; 2 John 11; John 5:22

John MacArthur

V. The Fundamental Doctrines Are All Summed up in the Person and Work of Christ

Paul wrote, “No man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:11). Christ Himself embodied or established every doctrine that is essential to genuine Christianity. Those who reject any of the cardinal doctrines of the faith worship a “christ” who is not the Christ of Scripture.

How are the fundamentals of the faith personified in Christ?

With regard to the inspiration and authority of Scripture, He is the incarnate Word (John 1:1, 14). He upheld the written Word’s absolute authority (Matthew 5:18). Christ Himself established sola Scriptura as a fundamental doctrine when He upbraided the Pharisees for nullifying Scripture with their own traditions: “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me. But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’ Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.… You nicely set aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition” (Mark 7:6-9). Our Lord had much to say about the authority and infallibility of the Word of God.

In the doctrine of justification by faith, it is Christ’s own perfect righteousness, imputed to the believer, that makes the pivotal difference between true biblical justification and the corrupted doctrine of Roman Catholicism and the cults. That is what Paul meant when he wrote, “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Romans 10:4). It is also why Paul wrote that Christ is become to us righteousness (1 Corinthians 1:30), and it is why Jeremiah called Him “The Lord our righteousness” (Jeremiah 23:6). The Lord Himself, Jesus Christ, is our righteousness (Jeremiah 33:16). That is the very essence of justification by faith alone, sola fide.

Of course, all the fundamental doctrines related to the incarnation — the Virgin Birth of Christ, His deity, His humanity, and His sinlessness — are part and parcel of who He is. To deny any of those doctrines is to attack Christ Himself.

The essential doctrines related to His work — His atoning death, His resurrection, and the reality of His miracles — are the very basis of the Gospel (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:1-4; Hebrews 2:3-4). Reject them and you nullify the heart of the Christian message.

The fundamentals of the faith are so closely identified with Christ that the apostle John used the expression “the teaching of Christ” as a kind of shorthand for the set of doctrines he regarded as fundamental. To him, these doctrines represented the difference between true Christianity and false religion.

That is why he wrote, “Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son” (2 John 9). Far from encouraging union with those who denied the fundamental truths of the faith, John forbade any form of spiritual fellowship with or encouragement of such false religion (vv. 10-11).

So What?

It has not been my purpose here to attempt to give an exhaustive list of fundamental doctrines. Such a task is beyond the scope of this article. Furthermore, the attempt to precisely identify and number such a list of doctrines would be an extremely difficult thing to do. However, a reasonable list of fundamentals would necessarily begin with these doctrines explicitly identified in Scripture as non-negotiable: the absolute authority of Scripture over tradition (sola Scriptura), justification by faith alone (sola fide), the deity of Christ, and the Trinity.

But what are we to do with this understanding? First of all, we should resist any temptation to wield these doctrines like a judge’s gavel that consigns multitudes to eternal doom. We must not set ourselves up as judges of other people’s eternal fate.

On the other hand, we must recognize that those who have turned away from sound doctrine in matters essential to salvation are condemning themselves. “He who does not believe has been judged already” (John 3:18). Our passion ought to be to proclaim the fundamentals with clarity and precision, in order to turn people away from the darkness of error. We must confront head-on the blindness and unbelief that will be the reason multitudes will one day hear the Lord say, “I never knew you; depart from Me” (Matthew 7:23). Again, it must be stressed that those who act as if crucial doctrines were of no consequence only heap the false teacher’s guilt on themselves (2 John 11).

We have no right to pronounce a sentence of eternal doom against anyone (John 5:22). But by the same token, we have no business receiving just anyone into the communion and fellowship of the church. We should no more forge spiritual bonds with people whose religion is fundamentally in error than we would seek fellowship with those guilty of heinous sin. To do so is tantamount to the arrogance shown by the Corinthians, who refused to dismiss from their fellowship a man living in the grossest kind of sin (1 Corinthians 5:1-3).

We must also remember that serious error can be extremely subtle. False teachers don’t wear a sign proclaiming who they are. They disguise themselves as apostles of Christ (2 Corinthians 11:13). “And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness” (vv. 14-15). In view of the current hunger for ecumenical compromise, nothing is more desperately needed in the church right now than a new movement to reemphasize the fundamental articles of the faith.

See also:

“What Doctrines Are Essential? – Part 1”
by John MacArthur
“What Doctrines Are Essential? – Part 2” by John MacArthur

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
This article originally appeared here at Grace To You © 1969-2011. Grace to You. All rights reserved.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

“Prophecy and the Closed Canon, Part 3” by John MacArthur

“Prophecy and the Closed Canon, Part 3”

by John MacArthur

From the time of the apostles until the present, the true church has always believed that the Bible is complete. God has given his revelation, and now Scripture is finished. God has spoken. What He gave is complete, efficacious, sufficient, inerrant, infallible, and authoritative. Attempts to add to the Bible, and claims of further revelation from God have always been characteristic of heretics and cultists, not the true people of God.

Although charismatics deny that they are trying to add to Scripture, their views on prophetic utterance, gifts of prophecy, and revelation really do just that. As they add–however unwittingly–to God’s final revelation, they undermine the uniqueness and authority of the Bible. New revelation, dreams, and visions are considered as binding on the believers conscience as the book of Romans or the gospel of John.

Some charismatics would say that people misunderstand what they mean by prophetic utterance and new revelation. They would say that no effort is being made to change Scripture or even equal it. What is happening, they assume, is the clarifying of Scripture as it is applied or directed to a contemporary setting, such as the prophecy of Agabus in Acts 11:28.

The line between clarifying Scripture and adding to it is indeed a thin one. But Scripture is not clarified by listening to someone who thinks he has the gift of prophecy. Scripture is clarified as it is carefully and diligently studied. There are no shortcuts to interpreting God’s word accurately (cf. Acts 17:11; 2 Tim. 2:15).

Christians must not play fast and loose with the issues of inspiration and revelation. An accurate understanding of those doctrines is essential for distinguishing between the voice of God and the human voice. Men who professed to speak for God but spoke their own opinions were to be executed under the Old Testament law (Deut. 13:1-5). New Testament believers are also urged to test the spirits and judge all supposed prophecies, shunning false prophets and heretics (1 John 4:1; 1 Cor. 14:29).

The Holy Spirit is working mightily in the church today, but not in the way most charismatics think. The Holy Spirit’s role is to empower us as we preach, teach, write, talk, witness, think, serve, and live. He does lead us into God’s truth and direct us into God’s will for our lives. But He does it through God’s Word, never apart from it. To refer to the Holy Spirit’s leading and empowering ministry as inspiration or revelation is a mistake. To use phrases such as “God spoke to me,” or “This wasn’t my idea; the Lord gave it to me,” or “These aren’t my words, but a message I received from the Lord” confuses the issue of the Spirit’s direction in believers’ lives today.

Inviting that kind of confusion plays into the hands of the error that denies the uniqueness and absolute authority of Scripture. The terms and concepts of Ephesians 5:18-19 and 2 Peter 1:21 are not to be mixed. Being filled with the Spirit and speaking to one another in psalms and hymns is not the same as being moved by the Holy Spirit to write inspired Scripture.
__________________________________________________________________________
This article here originally appeared at Grace To You © 1969-2011. Grace to You. All rights reserved. www.gty.org
__________________________________________________________________________

“Prophecy and the Closed Canon, Part 2” by John MacArthur

“Prophecy and the Closed Canon, Part 2”

John MacArthur

John MacArthur


How the Biblical Canon Was Chosen and Closed

Jude 3 is a crucial passage on the completeness of our Bibles. This statement, penned by Jude before the New Testament was complete, nevertheless looked forward to the completion of the entire canon:

Beloved, while I was making every effort to write to you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. (Jude 3)

In the Greek text the definite article preceding “faith” points to the one and only faith: “the faith.” There is no other. Such passages as Galatians 1:23 (“He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith”) and 1 Timothy 4:1 (“In latter times some will fall away from the faith”) indicate this objective use of the expression “the faith” was common in apostolic times. Greek scholar Henry Alford wrote that the faith is “objective here: the sum of that which Christians believe” (Alford’s Greek Testament, 4:530).

Note also the crucial phrase “once for all” in Jude 3. The Greek word here is hapax, which refers to something done for all time, with lasting results, never needing repetition. Nothing needs to be added to the faith that has been delivered “once for all.”

George Lawlor, who has written an excellent work on Jude, made the following comment:

The Christian faith is unchangeable, which is not to say that men and women of every generation do not need to find it, experience it, and live it; but it does mean that every new doctrine that arises, even though its legitimacy may be plausibly asserted, is a false doctrine. All claims to convey some additional revelation to that which has been given by God in this body of truth are false claims and must be rejected. (Jude, 45).

Also important in Jude 3 is the word “delivered.” In the Greek it is an aorist passive participle, which in this context indicates an act completed in the past with no continuing element. In this instance the passive voice means the faith was not discovered by men, but given to men by God. How did He do that? Through His Word–the Bible.

And so through the Scriptures God has given us a body of teaching that is final and complete. Our Christian faith rests on historical, objective revelation. That rules out all inspired prophecies, seers, and other forms of new revelation until God speaks again at the return of Christ (cf. Acts 2:16-21; Rev. 11:1-13).

In the meantime, Scripture warns us to be wary of false prophets. Jesus said that in our age “false christs and false prophets will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect” (Matt. 24:24). Signs and wonders alone are no proof that a person speaks for God. John wrote, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).

Ultimately, Scripture is the test of everything; it is the Christian’s standard. In fact, the word canon means “a rule, standard, or measuring rod.” The canon of Scripture is the measuring rod of the Christian faith, and it is complete.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________
This article here originally appeared at Grace To You © 1969-2011. Grace to You. All rights reserved. www.gty.org
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Sola Scriptura: The Apostle Paul’s “Method” For Sanctification — James Montgomery Boice


James Boice,

Paul’s “method” of sanctification is biblical doctrine. That is, to live as Christians we must know what God has done to us in making us Christians. We must know what has happened, and the only way we can know what has happened is to know the Bible. Then, because we know what God has done to us, we are to go on with God, acting on the basis of what has been done for us and in us. We can express it this way: We cannot go back to being what we were before. We are new creatures in Christ. And if we are new creatures in Christ, the only thing we can do is get on with living the Christian life. In other words, there is no way for us to go but forward…..This has nothing to do with either method or an experience. It has everything to do with knowing and living by the sufficient Word of God. Is it not true that one reason we see such immature and even sinful behavior among Christians today is that they have not really been taught what God has done to them and for them when he saved them? Aren’t our churches immature precisely because the pastors are not teaching Bible doctrines? ¹

¹ James Montgomery Boice, Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace: Rediscovering the Doctrines That Shook the World (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001) pp. 80,81

The Centrality of God’s Word in A Healthy Church — J.C. Ryle

J.C. Ryle (1816-1900)


J.C. Ryle,

The preaching of the pure Word of God is the first mark of a healthy Church. It is sound doctrine taught and preached, and not ritual, which in every age the Holy Spirit has used for awakening sleeping human consciences, building up the cause of Christ, and saving souls. The dens and caves and upper rooms in which the primitive Christians used to meet were doubtless very rough and unadorned. They had no carved wood or stone, no stained glass, no costly vestments, no organs, and no surpliced choirs. But these primitive worshipers were the men who ‘turned the world upside down,’ and I doubt not that their places of worship were far more honorable in God’s sight. It was well and truly said that in those ancient days ‘the Church had wooden communion vessels–but golden ministers,’ and it was this which gave the primitive Church its power. And when religion began to decay, it was said that the conditions were reversed; the ministers became wooden–and the communion plate golden…

…I long to have everywhere golden ministers, golden worship, golden preaching, golden praying, and golden praise. I want everything in the service of God to be done as perfectly as possible, and no part of it to be scamped, slurred over, done carelessly, and left out in the cold. I charge you affectionately, my reverend brethren, to make this your aim. Let the best, brightest, and heartiest services be always accompanied by the best and ablest sermons that your minds can produce and your tongues deliver. Let your sermons be addresses in which Christ’s blood, mediation, and intercession; Christ’s love, power, and willingness to save; the real work of the Holy Spirit, repentance, faith, and holiness; are never lacking—sermons full of life, and fire, and power; sermons which set hearers thinking, and make them go home to pray. Then, and then only will the Church have its just influence, and God will open the windows of heaven and give us a blessing.

The very best and most elaborate services are only means to an end, and that end should be the salvation of souls. All is not done when people have heard beautiful music and singing, and seen the most ornamental ceremonial. Are their hearts and consciences better? Is sin more hateful? Is Christ more precious? Is holiness more desired? Are they becoming more ready for death, judgment, and eternity every week that they live? These are the grand ends which every clergyman should set before him in every service which he conducts. He should strive to conduct it with an abiding recollection of the eye of God, the sound of the last trumpet, the resurrection of the dead, and the final judgment–and not with the petty thought, ‘Is my service bright, hearty, and well done?’ That these may be more and more the aims of every clergyman in the present day, is my earnest prayer.
(excerpted from: Signs of the Times, October 21, 1884)

Related Posts:

God Speaks Through His Word — B.B. Warfield
“The Authority of Scripture” by Martyn Lloyd-Jones
A Warning To Those Bringing Supposed New Revelation — Charles Spurgeon
“The Final Authority, Period.” – John MacArthur

God Speaks Through His Word — B.B. Warfield


B.B. Warfield,

Wherever Christ is known through whatever means, there is Christianity, and men may hear and believe and be saved. But God has caused his grace to abound to us in that he not only published redemption through Christ to the world, but gave this preachment authoritative expression through the apostles, and fixed it with infallible trustworthiness in His inspired word. Thus in every age God speaks directly to every Christian heart, and gives us abounding safety to our feet and divine security to our souls. And thus, instead of a mere record of a revelation given in the past, we have the ever-living word of God; instead of a mere tradition however guarded, we have what we have all learned to call in a unique sense “the Scriptures.” ¹

¹ Fred Zaspel, The Theology of B.B. Warfield: A Systematic Summary (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010), pg. 159

“Genesis 1 and Biblical Authority” by John MacArthur

“Genesis 1 and Biblical Authority”

by John MacArthur

John MacArthur


Scripture always speaks with absolute authority. It is as authoritative when it instructs us as it is when it commands us. It is as true when it tells the future as it is when it records the past. Although it is not a textbook on science, wherever it intersects with scientific data, it speaks with the same authority as when it gives us moral precepts. Although many have tried to set science against Scripture, science never has disproved one jot or tittle of the Bible–and it never will.

It is therefore a serious mistake to imagine that modern scientists can speak more authoritatively than Scripture on the subject of origins. Scripture is God’s own eyewitness account of what happened in the beginning. When it deals with the origin of the universe, all science can offer is conjecture. Science has proven nothing that negates the Genesis record. In fact, the Genesis record answers the mysteries of science.

A clear pattern for interpreting Genesis is given to us in the New Testament. If the language of early Genesis were meant to be interpreted figuratively, we could expect to see Genesis interpreted in the New Testament in a figurative sense. After all, the New Testament is itself inspired Scripture, so it is the Creator’s own commentary on the Genesis record.

What do we find in the New Testament? In every New Testament reference to Genesis, the events recorded by Moses are treated as historical events. And in particular, the first three chapters of Genesis are consistently treated as a literal record of historical events. The New Testament affirms, for example, the creation of Adam in the image of God (James 3:9).

Paul wrote to Timothy, “Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression” (1 Timothy 2:13-14). In 1 Corinthians 11:8-9, he writes, “Man is not from woman, but woman from man. Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man.”

Paul’s presentation of the doctrine of original sin in Romans 5:12-20 depends on a historical Adam and a literal interpretation of the account in Genesis about how he fell. Furthermore, everything Paul has to say about the doctrine of justification by faith depends on that. “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22). Clearly Paul regarded both the creation and fall of Adam as history, not allegory. Jesus Himself referred to the creation of Adam and Eve as a historical event (Mark 10:6). To question the historicity of these events is to undermine the very essence of Christian doctrine.

Moreover, if Scripture itself treats the creation and fall of Adam as historical events, there is no warrant for treating the rest of the creation account as allegory or literary device. Nowhere in all of Scripture are any of these events handled as merely symbolic.

In fact, when the New Testament refers to creation, (e.g., Mark 13:19; John 1:3; Acts 4:24; 14:15; 2 Corinthians 4:6; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2, 10; Revelation 4:11; 10:6; 14:7) it always refers to a past, completed event–an immediate work of God, not a still-occurring process of evolution. The promised New Creation, a running theme in both Old and New Testaments, is portrayed as an immediate fiat creation, too–not an eons-long process (Isaiah 65:17). In fact, the model for the New Creation is the original creation (cf. Romans 8:21; Revelation 21:1, 5).

Hebrews 11:3 even makes belief in creation by divine fiat the very essence of faith itself: “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” Creation ex nihilo is the clear and consistent teaching of the Bible.
_____________________________________________________________________
This article here originally appeared at Grace To You © 1969-2011. Grace to You. All rights reserved. www.gty.org
_____________________________________________________________________

“The Authority of Scripture” by Martyn Lloyd-Jones

An extract from a sermon on: ‘Stand therefore having your loins girt about with truth’ Ephesians 6.14

Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981)

People will have authority; and they are right in so thinking. They need authority because they are bewildered; and if they do not find it in the right way they will take it in the wrong way. They can be persuaded even though they do not know the source of the authority; in their utter bewilderment they are ready to be persuaded by any authoritative statement. So that it comes to this, that we are back exactly where Christians were 400 years ago. The world talks about its advance in knowledge, its science, and so on, but actually we are going round in cycles, and we are back exactly where Christians were 400 years ago. We are having to fight once more the whole battle of the Protestant Reformation. It is either this Book, or else it is ultimately the authority of the Church of Rome and her ‘tradition’! That was the great issue at the Protestant Reformation. It was because of what they found in the Bible that those men stood up against, and queried and questioned and finally condemned the Church of Rome. It was that alone that enabled Luther to stand, just one man, defying all those twelve centuries of tradition. ‘I can do no other’ he says, because of what he had found in the Bible. He could see that Rome was wrong. It did not matter that he was alone, and that all the big battalions were against him. He had the authority of the Word of God, and he judged the Church and her tradition and all else by this external authority. 

We are back again in that exact position, and I am concerned about the matter, not only from the standpoint of the Church in general, but also from the standpoint of our own individual experiences. How can we fight the devil? How can we know how we are to live? How can we answer the things we hear, the things we read, and all the subtle suggestions of the devil? Where can I find this truth that I must gird on, as I put on all this armour of God? Where can I find it if I cannot find it in the Bible? Either my foundation is one of sand that gives way beneath my feet, and I do not know where I am, or else I stand on what W. E. Gladstone called ‘The Impregnable Rock of Holy Scripture’.

Read full extract here at Grace Online Library.

For more resources, and to learn more about Martyn Lloyd-Jones, be sure to visit The Martyn Lloyd-Jones Recordings Trust Web Site

Related Posts:

Believing the Plain Truth of Scripture vs. Man’s Theories — Charles Spurgeon
A Warning To Those Bringing Supposed New Revelation — Charles Spurgeon
“Which Bible Translation Is Best?” by John MacArthur
Charles Spurgeon: On The Full Inspiration And Inerrancy of Scripture
Expositional Studies in Scripture with John MacArthur (Audio Format)

Believing the Plain Truth of Scripture vs. Man’s Theories — Charles Spurgeon

“Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” — 2 Corinthians 10:5

Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892)


C.H. Spurgeon,

Plain truth is in this wonderful century of small account; men crave to be mystified by their own cogitations. Many glory in being too intellectual to receive anything as absolute certainty: they are not at all inclined to submit to the authority of a positive revelation. God’s word is not accepted by them as final, but they judge it and believe what they like of it.

This is madness. I speak to those who believe in the Scriptures, and I say if, indeed, there be a revelation, it becomes us to be silent before it, and accept it without dispute. The Lord knows what he is better than we can ever know, and if he has been pleased to speak in his Word plainly and solemnly, it is ours to believe what he says, because he says it.

It may be all very well to prove that such and such a revelation of God is consistent with reason, consistent with analogy, consistent with a thousand things; but the spirit which needs such argument is a spirit of rebellion against God. If there be a revelation, every part of it is of authority, and must be believed. Human thought is not the arbiter of truth, but the infallible Word is the end of all strife.

It is not ours to say what the truth must be, or what we think it should be, or what we would like it to be, but reverently to sit down with open ear and willing heart to receive what God has spoken.

If an astronomer were to forbear to examine the stars, and teach an astronomy invented in his own brain, he would be an idiot: and those who treat theology in like fashion are not much better.

“Surely,” saith one, “we ought to modify our beliefs by public opinion, and the current of thought.”

I say “no” a thousand times. The incorruptible word of God liveth and abideth forever, and is incapable of modification. To modify is to adulterate and nullify it, and render it of none effect, so that it becomes another gospel, and, indeed, no gospel.

The thought of tampering with revealed truth is vicious, and ought not to be tolerated by any Christian for a second. The gospel of Jesus Christ is not a thing which is to be moulded according to the fashion of the period: it is “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today, and for ever.”

Whether the Greek philosophy rules or is exploded, whether some more modern theory blazes up or smoulders down, is small concern of ours, for we are set to preach the one unvarying gospel of Jesus Christ, with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven.

No man was ever led to a saving faith by our meeting him halfway and consenting to his unbelief. No real faith was ever wrought in man by his own thoughts and imaginations; he must receive the gospel as a revelation from God, or he cannot receive it at all.

Faith is a supernatural work wherever it is found, and if we think that we can beget faith in ourselves or others by the use of the fleshly weapons of philosophy we shall certainly be foiled. The Scriptures pressed home by the Holy Ghost are God’s power unto salvation, and not men’s cogitation’s and imaginations.

There is the revealed gospel, reject it at your peril; there is Jehovah’s revelation of himself to men, receive it or be lost; this is the ground to go upon if we would speak as the oracles of God. God grant that proud thinkers may come upon this ground and become believers. (excerpted from: Forts Demolished and Prisoners Taken, Sermon #1473, delivered by C.H. Spurgeon at Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington, May 11, 1879)

(RT: Pyromaniacs)

A Warning To Those Bringing Supposed New Revelation — Charles Spurgeon

Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) Picture from Vanity Fair, 10 December 1870


Is the truth that which I imagine to be revealed to me by some private communication? Am I to fancy that I enjoy some special Revelation and am I to order my life by voices, dreams and impressions? Brothers and Sisters, fall not into this common delusion! God’s Word to us is in Holy Scripture. All the Truth that sanctifies men is in God’s Word! Do not listen to those who cry, “Lo here!” and, “Lo there!” I am plucked by the sleeve almost every day by crazy persons and pretenders who think that they have Revelations from God. One man tells me that God has sent a message to me by him—and I reply, “No, Sir, the Lord knows where I dwell and He is so near to me that He would not need to send to me by you.” Another man announces, in God’s name, a dogma which, on the face of it, is a lie against the Holy Spirit. He says the Spirit of God told him so-and-so, but we know that the Holy Spirit never contradicts Himself. If your imaginary Revelation is not according to this Word of God, it has no weight with us! And if it is according to this Word, it is no new thing!

Brothers and Sisters, this Bible is enough if the Lord does but use it and quicken it by His Spirit in our hearts. Truth is neither your opinion, nor mine—your message, nor mine! Jesus says, “Your Word is truth.” That which sanctifies men is not only truth, but it is the particular Truth of God which is revealed in God’s Word—“Your Word is truth.” What a blessing it is that all the Truth that is necessary to sanctify us is revealed in the Word of God, so that we have not to expend our energies upon discovering the Truth of God, but may, to our far greater profit, use Revealed Truth for its Divine ends and purposes! There will be no more Revelations—no more are needed! The Canon is fixed and complete—and he that adds to it shall have added to him the plagues that are written in this Book! What need of more when here is enough for every practical purpose? “Sanctify them through Your truth: Your Word is truth.” (from: Our Lord’s Prayer for His People’s Sanctification, Sermon #1890, delivered on Lord’s Day Morning, March 7, 1866, C.H. Spurgeon)

Spiritual Growth: Not to Be Judged By Feelings or Emotions — A. W. Pink

Because so many Christians walk more by sense than by faith, measuring themselves by their feelings and moods rather than by the Word, their peace of mind is greatly destroyed and their joy of heart much decreased. Not a few saints are seriously the losers through misapprehensions upon this subject. Scriptural knowledge is essential if we are better to understand ourselves and diagnose more accurately our spiritual case. Many exercised souls form an erroneous opinion of themselves because of failure at this very point. Surely it is a matter of great practical moment that we should be able to judge aright of our spiritual progress or retrogression that we may not flatter ourselves on the one hand or unduly depreciate ourselves on the other.

Some are tempted in one direction, some in the other—depending partly on their personal temperament and partly on the kind of teaching they have received. Many are inclined to think more highly of themselves than they ought, and because they have obtained considerably increased intellectual knowledge of the truth imagine they have made a proportionate spiritual growth. But others with weaker memories and who acquire a mental grasp of things more slowly, suppose this to signify a lack of spirituality. Unless our thoughts about spiritual growth be formed by the Word of God we are certain to err and jump to a wrong conclusion. As it is with our bodies, so it is with our souls. Some suppose they are healthy while they are suffering from an insidious disease; whereas others imagine themselves to be ill when in fact they are hale and sound. Divine revelation and not human imagination ought to be our guide in determining whether or not we be “babes, young men, or fathers”—and our natural age has nothing to do with it. (pp. 7,8)

A page later he continues,

The “new creature” is from above, whereof our natural reason has no acquaintance: it is a supernatural product and can only be known by supernatural revelation. In like manner, the spiritual life received at the new birth thrives as to its degrees, unperceived by our senses. A child, by weighing and measuring himself, may discover that he has grown, yet he was not conscious of the process while growing. So it is with the new man: it is “renewed day by day” (2 Cor. 4:16) yet in such a hidden way that the renewing itself is not felt, though its effects become apparent. Thus there is no good reason to be disheartened because we do not feel that any progress is being made or to conclude there is no advance because such feeling is absent. “There are some of the Lord’s people in whom the essence and reality of holiness dwell who do not perceive in themselves any spiritual growth. It should therefore be remembered that there is a real growth in grace where it is not perceived. We should judge of it not by what we experience of it in ourselves, but by the Word. It is a subject for faith to be exercised on” (S. F. Pierce). If we desire the pure “milk of the Word” and feed thereon, then we must not doubt that we duly “grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:3). (pg. 9) — Arthur W. Pink (1886-1952)

(Arthur W. Pink, Spiritual Growth [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1971, 1976, 1996])

“What Is the Gospel?” By R.C. Sproul

“What Is the Gospel?”

by R.C. Sproul

Dr. R.C. Sproul

There is no greater message to be heard than that which we call the Gospel. But as important as that is, it is often given to massive distortions or over simplifications. People think they’re preaching the Gospel to you when they tell you, ‘you can have a purpose to your life’, or that ‘you can have meaning to your life’, or that ‘you can have a personal relationship with Jesus.’ All of those things are true, and they’re all important, but they don’t get to the heart of the Gospel.

The Gospel is called the ‘good news’ because it addresses the most serious problem that you and I have as human beings, and that problem is simply this: God is holy and He is just, and I’m not. And at the end of my life, I’m going to stand before a just and holy God, and I’ll be judged. And I’ll be judged either on the basis of my own righteousness – or lack of it – or the righteousness of another. The good news of the Gospel is that Jesus lived a life of perfect righteousness, of perfect obedience to God, not for His own well being but for His people. He has done for me what I couldn’t possibly do for myself. But not only has He lived that life of perfect obedience, He offered Himself as a perfect sacrifice to satisfy the justice and the righteousness of God.

The great misconception in our day is this: that God isn’t concerned to protect His own integrity. He’s a kind of wishy-washy deity, who just waves a wand of forgiveness over everybody. No. For God to forgive you is a very costly matter. It cost the sacrifice of His own Son. So valuable was that sacrifice that God pronounced it valuable by raising Him from the dead – so that Christ died for us, He was raised for our justification. So the Gospel is something objective. It is the message of who Jesus is and what He did. And it also has a subjective dimension. How are the benefits of Jesus subjectively appropriated to us? How do I get it? The Bible makes it clear that we are justified not by our works, not by our efforts, not by our deeds, but by faith – and by faith alone. The only way you can receive the benefit of Christ’s life and death is by putting your trust in Him – and in Him alone. You do that, you’re declared just by God, you’re adopted into His family, you’re forgiven of all of your sins, and you have begun your pilgrimage for eternity.

We Recommend

God’s Hyper-Plentiful Grace Devotional
The Gospel-Driven Life Article by Harry Reeder
The Gospel of the Gospels Article by Daniel Hyde
______________________________________________________________________________
From Ligonier Ministries and R.C. Sproul. © Tabletalk magazine. Website: www.ligonier.org/tabletalk. Email: tabletalk@ligonier.org. Toll free: 1-800-435-4343.

______________________________________________________________________________

“How Good Do I Have To Be To Go To Heaven?” – John MacArthur

“How good do I have to be to go to heaven?”

Matthew 19:25; Matthew 5:20

Most people understand that doing evil can keep us out of heaven. But few realize the Bible also teaches that doing good cannot get us in. None of us could ever gain enough merit to deserve heaven. We are sinful, and God’s standard is utter perfection. Jesus said, “Unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20). He added, “you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Then who can be saved?
The disciples asked Jesus this same question (Matthew 19:25). His answer? “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (v. 26). In other words, our salvation is not something we can accomplish. It is something God must do for us.

What if I stopped sinning now and never sinned again?
We are hopelessly in bondage to sin and could not cease sinning no matter how hard we tried. Scripture says even our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). In other words, we are sinful to the core. Furthermore, a single sin would be enough to destroy us forever: “Whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10). But even if we never sinned from now on, we still bear the guilt of our past sins. And “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

Is there any way to be free from the guilt of sin?
The Bible says, “The blood of Jesus … cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

How can Jesus’ blood cleanse our sins?
When God forgives, He doesn’t merely overlook sin. Atonement must be made. Christ’s death made full atonement for those who trust Him. His dying counts in our stead if we believe. However, that only erases the guilt of our sin. Remember, we still need perfect righteousness in order to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:20).

Where do we get that perfect righteousness?
The full merit of Jesus’ righteousness is imputed, or credited, to those who trust Him alone for salvation. Scripture teaches that God “justifies the ungodly” by reckoning Christ’s righteousness to them (Romans 4:5). They are clothed in His righteousness, and God accepts believers solely and exclusively on that basis. That’s why Paul was willing to discard all his own efforts to earn God’s favor, preferring instead to stand before God robed in a righteousness that was not his own (Philippians 3:8-9).

If you are not a Christian, you need to lay hold of this truth by faith: the sin that will keep you out of heaven has no cure but the blood of Christ. If you are weary of your sin and exhausted from the load of your guilt, He tenderly holds forth the offer of life and forgiveness and eternal rest to you: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

How can I be sure Christ will save me?
No one will be turned away: “The one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out” (John 6:37). All are invited: “The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17).

For further help on how you can have the assurance of an eternal home in heaven, click here.
=====================================================================
For a more thorough treatment of the subject, see John’s book or audio series called The Gospel According to Jesus.
______________________________________________________________________________
This article here originally appeared at Grace To You. – © 1969-2010. Grace to You. All rights reserved. www.gty.org

______________________________________________________________________________

“Some Things Are True And Some Things Are False” – Charles Spurgeon

Charles Spurgeon

Some things are true and some things are false…Believing, therefore, that there is such a thing as truth, and such a thing as falsehood, that there are truths in the Bible, and that the gospel consists in something definite which is to be believed by men, it becomes us to be decided as to what we teach, and to teach it in a decided manner. We have to deal with men who will be either lost or saved, and they certainly will not be saved by erroneous doctrine. We have to deal with God, whose servants we are, and he will not be honored by our delivering falsehoods; neither will he give us a reward, and say, “Well done, good and faithful servant, thou hast mangled the gospel as judiciously as any man that ever lived before thee.” -C.H. Spurgeon

(Cited in, Ashamed of the Gospel: When the Church Becomes Like the World, 3rd Edition, John MacArthur [Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2010], pgs, 269,270)